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640km (400 miles) W of Tokyo; 130km (81 miles) W of Kyoto; 87km (54 miles) E of Okayama

The main reason tourists come to Himeji, in Hyogo Prefecture, is to see its 400-year-old beautiful castle, which embodies better than any other castle the best in Japan's military architecture. If you were to see only one castle in Japan, this is my pick.

Because of the castle's proximity to Himeji Station on the Shinkansen line, many tourists stop only long enough to see the castle and a few other sites before continuing onward. I've included a few recommendations, however, for those wishing to make an overnight stop.